Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Russian Hacking and Reality Winner

There are several layers to this story.  First, The Intercept reports via a leaked document from the NSA that Russian military intelligence launched a cyberattack against a U.S. voting software supplier.

The top-secret National Security Agency document, which was provided anonymously to The Intercept and independently authenticated, analyzes intelligence very recently acquired by the agency about a months-long Russian intelligence cyber effort against elements of the U.S. election and voting infrastructure. The report, dated May 5, 2017, is the most detailed U.S. government account of Russian interference in the election that has yet come to light.

[…]

This NSA summary judgment is sharply at odds with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s denial last week that Russia had interfered in foreign elections: “We never engaged in that on a state level, and have no intention of doing so.” Putin, who had previously issued blanket denials that any such Russian meddling occurred, for the first time floated the possibility that freelance Russian hackers with “patriotic leanings” may have been responsible. The NSA report, on the contrary, displays no doubt that the cyber assault was carried out by the GRU.

The NSA analysis does not draw conclusions about whether the interference had any effect on the election’s outcome and concedes that much remains unknown about the extent of the hackers’ accomplishments. However, the report raises the possibility that Russian hacking may have breached at least some elements of the voting system, with disconcertingly uncertain results.

The second part of this story is that the person who leaked the documents to The Intercept has been caught and arrested.  She is a 25-year-old employee of an NSA contractor in Georgia.  Her name is Reality Winner (a name straight out of an 18th century British comedy).  Via the Department of Justice:

Winner is a contractor with Pluribus International Corporation assigned to a U.S. government agency facility in Georgia. She has been employed at the facility since on or about February 13, and has held a Top Secret clearance during that time. On or about May 9, Winner printed and improperly removed classified intelligence reporting, which contained classified national defense information from an intelligence community agency, and unlawfully retained it. Approximately a few days later, Winner unlawfully transmitted by mail the intelligence reporting to an online news outlet.

Once investigative efforts identified Winner as a suspect, the FBI obtained and executed a search warrant at her residence. According to the complaint, Winner agreed to talk with agents during the execution of the warrant. During that conversation, Winner admitted intentionally identifying and printing the classified intelligence reporting at issue despite not having a “need to know,” and with knowledge that the intelligence reporting was classified. Winner further admitted removing the classified intelligence reporting from her office space, retaining it, and mailing it from Augusta, Georgia, to the news outlet, which she knew was not authorized to receive or possess the documents.

The fact that the FBI was able to arrest Ms. Winner in such a short time tells us that the story about the Russian hacking must be skating very close to the truth or else they wouldn’t have been in such a hurry to catch the leaker.  (Also, they lucked into having a leaker who wasn’t really good at it.)

It also makes you wonder if this was just an isolated incident or part of a pattern of hacking and that there’s a lot more out there that the NSA is keeping under wraps.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

High-Speed Pileup

The travails of the Trump administration are starting to pick up speed and ferocity.

First up, it appears that the statement issued by then-FBI Director James Comey last July about the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s e-mail was in part prompted by a fake e-mail slipped into the mix by the Russians.

In the midst of the 2016 presidential primary season, the FBI received what was described as a Russian intelligence document claiming a tacit understanding between the Clinton campaign and the Justice Department over the inquiry into whether she intentionally revealed classified information through her use of a private email server.

The Russian document cited a supposed email describing how then-Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch had privately assured someone in the Clinton campaign that the email investigation would not push too deeply into the matter. If true, the revelation of such an understanding would have undermined the integrity of the FBI’s investigation.

Current and former officials have said that Comey relied on the document in making his July decision to announce on his own, without Justice Department involvement, that the investigation was over. That public announcement — in which he criticized Clinton and made extensive comments about the evidence — set in motion a chain of other FBI moves that Democrats now say helped Trump win the presidential election.

But according to the FBI’s own assessment, the document was bad intelligence — and according to people familiar with its contents, possibly even a fake sent to confuse the bureau. The Americans mentioned in the Russian document insist they do not know each other, do not speak to each other and never had any conversations remotely like the ones described in the document. Investigators have long doubted its veracity, and by August the FBI had concluded it was unreliable.

So the FBI was punked by the Russians.  That was all part of a larger plan.  As the New York Times reports, they were playing us like a Stradivarius.

American spies collected information last summer revealing that senior Russian intelligence and political officials were discussing how to exert influence over Donald J. Trump through his advisers, according to three current and former American officials familiar with the intelligence.

The conversations focused on Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign chairman at the time, and Michael T. Flynn, a retired general who was advising Mr. Trump, the officials said. Both men had indirect ties to Russian officials, who appeared confident that each could be used to help shape Mr. Trump’s opinions on Russia.

Some Russians boasted about how well they knew Mr. Flynn. Others discussed leveraging their ties to Viktor F. Yanukovych, the deposed president of Ukraine living in exile in Russia, who at one time had worked closely with Mr. Manafort.

The intelligence was among the clues — which also included information about direct communications between Mr. Trump’s advisers and Russian officials — that American officials received last year as they began investigating Russian attempts to disrupt the election and whether any of Mr. Trump’s associates were assisting Moscow in the effort. Details of the conversations, some of which have not been previously reported, add to an increasing understanding of the alarm inside the American government last year about the Russian disruption campaign.

The information collected last summer was considered credible enough for intelligence agencies to pass to the F.B.I., which during that period opened a counterintelligence investigation that is continuing. It is unclear, however, whether Russian officials actually tried to directly influence Mr. Manafort and Mr. Flynn. Both have denied any collusion with the Russian government on the campaign to disrupt the election.

Anything else?  Well, let’s see what the Attorney General was up to…

Attorney General Jeff Sessions failed to disclose meetings with Russian officials when he applied for security clearance because he was told not to do so by advisers and the F.B.I., a Justice Department spokesman said Wednesday.

Mr. Sessions met with Sergey I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, at least twice in 2016. But asked on an official government form to note any contact he or family members had with foreign governments or their representatives over the past seven years, Mr. Sessions did not include his encounters with Mr. Kislyak. It is a federal crime to make false statements or withhold relevant information on the background check form.

“As a United States senator, the attorney general met hundreds — if not thousands — of foreign dignitaries and their staff,” Ian Prior, a spokesman for the Justice Department, said in a statement. “The attorney general’s staff consulted with those familiar with the process, as well as the F.B.I. investigator handling the background check, and was instructed not to list meetings with foreign dignitaries and their staff connected with his Senate activities.”

Mr. Sessions filled out two such forms, Mr. Prior said, one last July, as he was first formally vetted by the Trump campaign, and one after the election in November.

The news, first reported by CNN, renewed questions about Mr. Sessions and the Russia issue. Mr. Sessions, who represented Alabama until his confirmation as the nation’s top law enforcement officer this year, was the first United States senator to endorse Mr. Trump, backing him in February 2016.

What I find most amazing is the speed at which all of this is happening.  It took over two years for Watergate to unravel, and back in those innocent times we thought that was pretty quick.  But this whole Trump administration experiment is running out faster than a mini-series on HBO (which I am sure is already being planned out).

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Nothing To See Here

It turns out that the search warrant for Hillary Clinton’s e-mails was based on nothing.

The FBI told a federal judge that it needed to search a computer to resume its investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server because agents had found correspondence on the device between Clinton and top aide Huma Abedin — though they did not have any inkling what was being discussed, according to newly unsealed court documents.

The documents, made public Tuesday after a Los Angeles lawyer sued for their release, reinforce the impression that when the bureau revealed less than two weeks before the election that agents were again investigating Clinton, they had no new evidence of actual wrongdoing. The FBI’s revelation upended the presidential campaign, and to this day, Clinton and her supporters say it is at least partly to blame for her surprising loss to Donald Trump.

[…]

David E. Kendall, Clinton’s lawyer, said in a statement the affidavit highlighted the “extraordinary impropriety” of Comey revealing that the investigation had resumed, which Kendall alleged “produced devastating but predictable damage politically and which was both legally unauthorized and factually unnecessary.”

“The affidavit concedes that the FBI had no basis to conclude whether these e-mails were even pertinent to that closed investigation, were significant, or whether they had, in fact, already been reviewed prior to the closing of the investigation,” Kendall said. “What does become unassailably clear, however, is that as the sole basis for this warrant, the FBI put forward the same evidence the Bureau concluded in July was not sufficient to bring a case — the affidavit offered no additional evidence to support any different conclusion.”

The Director of the FBI basically upended the election based on no evidence or probable cause.

So yes, the election was rigged stolen.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Monday, December 5, 2016

Short Takes

Army Corps denies Dakota pipeline access route.

Will North Carolina governor concede re-election loss this week?

Survivors describe escape from warehouse fire in Oakland; toll rises to 30.

Austrians reject far-right candidate for president.

Jury appears to be one vote shy of conviction in Charleston shooting case.

Monday, November 28, 2016

It Won’t Happen

Via TPM:

His inauguration less than eight weeks away, President-elect Donald Trump was confronted by new developments Saturday in recount efforts in three states pivotal to his Nov. 8 victory, even as he worked to fill foreign policy and national defense jobs in his incoming administration.

[…]

Clinton leads the national popular vote by close to 2 million votes, but Trump won 290 electoral votes to Clinton’s 232, with Michigan still too close to call. It takes 270 to win the presidency.

Wisconsin officials are moving forward with the first presidential recount in state history following Stein’s formal request. Stein, who drew 1 percent of the vote nationally, is raising millions of dollars to pay for the effort.

“Because we had not uncovered any actionable evidence of hacking or outside attempts to alter the voting technology, we had not planned to exercise this option ourselves,” Clinton campaign attorney Marc Elias wrote Saturday in blog post. “But now that a recount has been initiated in Wisconsin, we intend to participate in order to ensure the process proceeds in a manner that is fair to all sides.”

As much as I would like to have seen the election go to Hillary Clinton, this recount effort is doomed to failure even if the outcome is narrowed or even changed.

Say the improbable miracle happens and Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania flip to Clinton and she does have enough electoral votes.  The response from the Republicans would be apoplectic and it would be challenged with no end in sight in court.  And even if she finally wins all the battles in court, she would still face a Republican Senate and House that would not be in any mood to accept her.  If you think we’ve had gridlock under Barack Obama, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

I realize that it’s a Hollywood kind of ending that after all the drama of the campaign this comes out as a victory for Hillary Clinton, but this is reality, and if you gave money to Dr. Jill Stein to mount the recount, I hope it wasn’t your last dime.  You’re going to need it.

Short Takes

Trump says he would have won the popular vote if millions hadn’t voted “illegally.”

Bernie Sanders tells GOP to can it about the recount objections.

Gun sales to blacks, minorities soar after Trump’s election.

South Korean leader digs in amid calls for impeachment.

R.I.P. Ron Glass, 71, Detective Harris on Barney Miller; Florence Henderson, Mrs. Brady of The Brady Bunch.

Monday, November 14, 2016

What’s Next

Well, I’m back.  I needed some time to gather my thoughts about the election and what it means for us as a people, as a country, and for the world.

To say I was disappointed would be stating the obvious; disappointed on levels beyond a political loss.  I’m disappointed that this country chose to take the path that it did, and chose it not out of considered long-term consequences but out of a knee-jerk, lizard-brain reaction to fear and loathing.  I’m disappointed that more people that I agree with politically and morally chose to see their opponents in stark contrast to themselves rather than people frightened by fables and fear of the unknown that we could reach out to.  We missed a lot of opportunities to bring comfort and security to them even if they didn’t act like they wanted it.  We said we wanted to listen, but we only heard the outbursts, not the insecurities that makes people vulnerable to predators promising easy answers and nostrums in ten words or less.  And despite the fact that our economy is improving, crime rates are falling, our children are learning, even our defenses are stronger, we allowed them to tell us the opposite and they believed it because for all the optimism that we say is part of human nature — if not, we’d eat our young — it is easier to believe in the bad things and demand simple solutions than it is to acknowledge the good and build upon it.

So, what’s next?  What do we do now?  I’ll get to that, but I can assure you of some things I won’t do.

I won’t deny the results of the election and go around with banners flying proclaiming #NotMyPresident or signing a petition demanding the Electoral College elect Hillary Clinton anyway.  I will not join in the current anti-Trump protests on the street.  That doesn’t preclude other protests in the future; just those fits of rage, especially the ones with property damage.  Those actions are tantrums, not progress, and when people who objected to the election of Barack Obama said the same thing, we rightfully scorned them.  I won’t even argue that just because Hillary Clinton won more popular votes than Mr. Trump she was somehow cheated out of the election.  This is not the first time in our history that it has happened and it won’t be the last.  It does not advance our cause by grasping at straws.  We are supposed to be the grown-ups.

I will not call Mr. Trump by silly and insulting names.  I didn’t do it with George W. Bush or any other president since I’ve had this blog, and all it does is perpetuate the perception that we’re juvenile and cannot be trusted to act like adults.  All it does is prove that you have lost the argument and are lashing out.

Here’s what we will do: we stand up and fight back.  We work at every level to elect people who are progressives and get our policies enacted into law starting at the city council and school board and work our way up.  That’s how the right wing and the evangelicals did it starting forty years ago and look where it’s got them: a lock on state legislatures from coast to coast and a majority of governors.  They’re the ones who control the districts for Congress and the next redistricting will come about after the next census in 2020.  We have to have our people in place by then.

We stand up to bullying and bullshit and push back.  If the Republicans could govern by refusing to consider anything proposed by a Democratic president, then it’s time to bring out the gander sauce and let them have a taste.  Yes, they’re in the majority, but at least we will be heard and our principles are not defeated by being outvoted.  That does not mean that we will not consider compromising on policies where there is common ground, but it will not be capitulation.  If we go down, we go down with our principles intact.

We will use every legal means we can to bear witness to our beliefs and we will not be moved, intimidated, or oppressed for fighting back.  We will remind everyone at every turn that there are those who not only oppose what may come, but we will offer better answers.  We can’t just complain and snivel about what’s wrong; we have to have solutions.

It’s been a tough week.  It’s going to be a tough four years, and we should do everything we can to make sure it is only four years.  Not by hoping Donald Trump fails, but by making our country realize that his policies and views of America are dark, dangerous, and that there’s more to running a country than running for office.  We have been down for the count before: 1972, 1984, 1988, but we’ve always come back.  And we will again… assuming there’s a country to come back for.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Now We Wait

The polls close in Florida at 7:00 p.m., but the state has two time zones, so there won’t be any official results reported until after 8:00 p.m. ET.

I will be back updating this post as the night goes on until the presidential race is called or until I fall asleep.  Until then, I’m catching up on “The Crown” on Netflix.

8:12 pm: Marco Rubio re-elected in Florida.  Gee, Patrick Murphy might have had a chance if Florida had a Democratic party.  Tammy Duckworth (D) beats incumbent Mark Kirk (R) in the Illinois Senate race, so that’s a pickup for the Democrats.

9:21 pm: It’s looking like this is going to be tighter than the oracles said.  This will be a long night.

This Is It

I’ve got nothing more to say about the campaign.  Now it’s your turn.

There are only two requirements:

  1. You must be registered.
  2. You must go to vote at your correct location.

If you’re not registered, check and see if your state allows same-day registration.  If not, then go back to bed.  If you are registered but not sure where to vote, check here.

I honestly don’t care who you vote for.  I mean it.  All that really matters is that you vote.  If you don’t, then I will expect you to keep your mouth shut for the next four years if things don’t go the way you wanted.  You forfeited that right when you stayed home.  So go.

And if you already did, either by absentee or early voting, thank you.  Sit back, relax and wait with the rest of us.

i-voted-08-30-16

A Last Visit To The Oracles

The final numbers from the predictors are in.  Take your pick.  If you’re for Trump, make it chloroform.

First, Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight:

Hillary Clinton has a 70 percent chance of winning the election, according to both the FiveThirtyEight polls-only and polls-plus models. That’s up from a 65 percent chance on Sunday night, so Clinton has had a good run in the polls in the final days of the campaign. Clinton’s projected margin of victory in the popular vote has increased to 3.5 percent from 2.9 percent.

fivethirtyeight-pollsonly-11-08-16Here’s Sam Wang’s call at the Princeton Election Consortium:

Here are my best estimates. The Presidential and House races are a near-replica of 2012. Four Senate races are within one percentage point. Partisans in Indiana, Missouri, New Hampshire, and North Carolina may want to lawyer up for possible recount battles.

[…]

President: Hillary Clinton (D).

Most probable single outcome (shown on map below): Clinton 323 EV, Trump 215 EV.

pec-map-11-08-16

The biggest change in the results is that both models plus the Upshot at the New York Times are calling for the Senate to be handed over to the Democrats by the slimmest of margins: 538 calling it 50-50, which means the Democrats control because Vice President Kaine breaks a tie, or 52-48 via PEC (Independents Bernie Sanders (VT) and Angus King (ME) caucus with the Democrats).  That would fend off total gridlock, which is guaranteed if all the Democrats have is the White House (see Obama, Barack 2010-2016).

Now it’s your turn.

Monday, November 7, 2016

99.9% vs 66.9%

Today — the day before the election — the polling oracles of Sam Wang at the Princeton Election Consortium and Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight are showing two very different predictions.  PEC says Hillary Clinton has a 99.9% chance of winning while 538 is saying it’s 66.9%.  Why?

pec-map-11-07-16

Princeton Election Consortium 11-07-16

Five Thirty Eight 11-07-16

Five Thirty Eight 11-07-16

At the moment 538 isn’t talking, but Sam offers an explanation.  Fair warning: it’s long, detailed, and gets into statistical interpretation that will test your wonk tolerance, but it’s worth the read to see why two different organizations without — at least on the surface — an agenda for one candidate over another can come to two very different results when they’re looking at the same data.

And for a happy medium, there’s the Upshot at the New York Times, which, with Hillary Clinton at 84%, lands exactly in the middle between PEC and 538.

Take your pick.

FBI Director Comey: “Never Mind”

Via the Washington Post:

FBI Director James B. Comey said Sunday that the bureau had completed its examination of newly discovered emails connected to Hillary Clinton — an inquiry that had roiled the presidential race for nine days — and found nothing to alter its months-old decision not to seek charges against the former secretary of state for her use of a private email server.

In a letter to congressional committee chairmen, Comey said investigators had worked “around the clock” to review the emails. The investigators found that the emails were either duplicates of correspondence they had reviewed earlier or were personal emails that did not pertain to State Department business, government officials said.

So after nine days of hysterics from the Trump campaign and pundits and bed-wetting and hand-wringing by the usual suspects in the Democratic Party headquarters, it’s all for naught.  Move along, folks, nothing to see here.

The damage, however, has been done.  Millions of votes were cast between the announcement on Friday, October 28 and Sunday, November 6, and commercials cut by Trump and his supporters with dark grainy images of Hillary Clinton “UNDER ANOTHER FBI INVESTIGATION” were shown and are still running.  Even though the polls didn’t show movement away from Clinton in the last few days and the race did its natural tightening as all races do as the finish line approached, the only people who truly benefited from this clusterfuck were the folks at the cable networks who set the advertising rates for the breathless BREAKING NEWS segments.

The losers are both campaigns, the FBI, and in particular Director Comey who won’t be able to get a free lunch in Washington again for the rest of his term.  The Republicans won’t trust him because they think he caved to pressure from the White House and the Clinton campaign, the Democrats won’t trust him because he clearly made a hash of the whole investigation starting back in July when he held that press conference to announce the original findings — maybe he should have just sent an e-mail? — and he’s clearly influenced by the partisan factions in the agency who have it in for the Clintons.

The rest of us just think that for whatever he’s got going for him as a director, he’s completely tone deaf and unaware of the fact that the FBI has a long history going back to the days of J. Edgar Hoover of meddling in politics and his actions have just reinforced the impression he’s a hack.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Only Weapon They Have

There’s growing talk among Republicans in the Senate that they won’t consider judicial nominees from a President Hillary Clinton ever.

This all started when Antonin Scalia died last February and the GOP immediately announced that they would hold off consideration of a replacement until, to them, they got a real president in office.  But now that the likelihood is that the Democrats will once again win the White House, well, they won’t allow anyone to be considered.  So they’re going to uphold the Constitution by shitting on it.

Why are they being so confrontational?  Does it not occur to them that someday the tables could be turned and the Democrats would do the same thing to a Republican president?

I think there are a couple of reasons why they think they can do this.  First, they know that the Democrats wouldn’t be such assholes, and if they were, the Republicans would be all over them, screaming like banshees about “defying the will of the people” and weeping crocodile tears about how those meanies are stomping on “the rule of law.”  We saw this kind of sanctimony when the merry band of adulterers and whoremongers were impeaching Bill Clinton so we know they’re capable of it.  Nothing gets you on Fox News faster than righteous hypocrisy, and the more blatant the better.

Second, I think upyernoz at Rubber Hose makes a valid point: the Republicans know that it will be a while before there’s another Republican president.

Currently, the Republicans are at a real disadvantage whenever there is a high turnout election like presidential elections are, and the electoral map gives the Democrats an inherent advantage each presidential election (i.e. the Blue Wall) Those disadvantages are bound to get worse for the Republicans as demographic trends are decreasing their core voters’ share of the electorate while increasing the share of minorities who tend to vote Democratic. The Republicans could try to change the map and make a play for those minorities by catering to their concerns (as the Republican’s autopsy report for the 2012 election advised them to do), but this election has pretty clearly demonstrated that the Republican base won’t tolerate that. So what that leaves them with is a losing hand in every presidential election for the foreseeable future.

Once you assume that Republicans probably won’t recapture the White House, the premise behind compromising on Supreme Court and other judicial appointments evaporates. The growing Republican opposition to letting any Democratic nominees on the court is part of the realization of Republican weakness in the Presidential race.

In short, they don’t need the White House to get what they want.  They have called the tune for the last six years through government shut-down, blocking judicial appointments, gerrymandering the House into guaranteed safe districts, and then blaming the Democrats for nothing getting done, knowing their constituents will not only believe it, they’ll keep re-electing the same people while they chant “Throw the bums out!”  It’s always somebody else’s bum they want thrown out, though.

The Republicans all say it would be wonderful to have one of their own in the White House.  But that would mean they would have to actually get things done, like create jobs, repair the infrastructure, reform the tax code, fix the immigration system.  It’s a lot easier to sit in the cheap seats and piss and moan; why ruin a good thing?

Just For Men

President Obama addresses the guys.

President Barack Obama on Tuesday called on men to “look inside” themselves and think about bias if they have any doubt about voting for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

“To the guys out there, I want to be honest,” Obama told a crowd in Columbus, Ohio, at a Clinton campaign event. “You know, there’s a reason we haven’t had a woman president before.”

He asked male voters to think about their potential biases against Clinton, who would be the first female president in U.S. history.

“I want every man out there who’s voting to kinda look inside yourself and ask yourself, if you’re having problems with this stuff, how much of it is that we’re just not used to it?” he said. “When a guy is ambitious and out in the public arena and working hard, well that’s okay. But when a woman suddenly does it, suddenly you’re all like, well, why’s she doing that?”

Obama went on to praise Clinton. “She is so much better qualified than the other guy,” he said, referring to GOP nominee Donald Trump. “She has conducted herself so much better in public life than the other guy.”

Obama blasted Trump for his disrespectful treatment of women and said the behavior would continue should he be elected president.

“The only thing this office does is it amplifies who you are. It magnifies who you are,” he said. “If you disrespected women before you were elected, you will disrespect women once you’re president.”

I have no delusion that when we have a woman in the Oval Office that all of a sudden this kind of behavior will come to an end, just as racism didn’t end in America when Barack Obama became president.  In some ways, it got worse, and I’m not just talking about the crap on the internet with cartoons; look at how the Republicans in Congress reacted and tell me that subliminal racism wasn’t behind it.

I don’t expect the sexism and the misogyny brought to the surface by Donald Trump to go away, either.  But there are a lot more women in this country who are not going to let the men get away with it.